October 29, 2022

Leo Henry Petri, 1914-1998 [RG1657.AM]


RG1657.AM:  Leo Henry Petri, 1914-1998

Papers:  1942-1946

Garland, Seward County, Neb.:  Parasitologist

Size:  0.75 cu. ft.


Leo H. Petri, a native of Garland, Nebraska, attended Peru State Teachers College where he received a Bachelors degree in biology. After receiving a Masters in Parasitology from the University of Nebraska in 1941, he accepted a position as an instructor-technician in the Department of Zoology at Kansas State Agricultural College in Manhattan. While there, he met and married Margaret Abbott.

Petri enlisted in the army at Ft. Riley, Kansas, on June 6 1942. After basic training he was assigned to Ft. Riley’s hospital laboratory. On June 6, 1943 he accepted a commission as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Sanitary Corps.

To architects of American strategy in the Pacific theater, it was clear that the war would be won in southeast Asia only be devising ways to combat malaria, thus keeping troops in the field. With the 36th Malaria Survey Unit, Lt. Petri served briefly in India and for most of his tour in Chengtu, China, doing laboratory work which involved evaluating disease among both the locals and military personnel.

Petri returned from China in late 1945 and was relieved from active duty on March 1, 1946.


This collection is arranged in two series: 1) Correspondence, 1942-1945; and 2) Miscellany, 1943-1945. This material relates to Lt. Leo H. Petri’s military career while serving in the 36th Malaria Survey Unit in India and China.

The Correspondence of Series 1 consists of letters written by Lt. Petri to his wife, Margaret. The letters, written almost daily, cover Petri’s daily activities from his arrival at the New Orleans port of embarkation, to his shipping off point in California, the journey to southeast Asia, and his arrival and experiences in India and China. Petri was stationed at Chengtu, China, during his overseas duty and his letters describe local conditions, including Chinese farm methods, local foods and other traditions, health precautions, diseases encountered, his laboratory work, and hopes for the future after the war.

The Miscellany of Series 2 includes Petri’s military records, 1943-1946 and undated; a May 5, 1945 Chengtu newspaper; and maps showing the location of Petri’s assignment.

Petri used the material in this collection to write Journey to Chengtu: Memoirs of World War II. This work can be found in the Society’s Library under 940.544/P495j.


Series 1 – Correspondence, 1942-1945

Box 1


    1. 1942, June 8; 1943, Dec. 24 – 1944, Jan. 18

    1. 1944, Jan. 19 – Feb. 17

    1. 1944, Feb. 18 – Mar. 5

    1. 1944, Mar. 6 – Apr. 20

    1. 1944, Apr. 21 – May 15

    1. 1944, May 16 – May 31

    1. 1944, June 1 – June 25

    1. 1944, June 26 – July 17

    1. 1944, July 18 – Aug. 13

    1. 1944, Aug. 14-31

    1. 1944, Sept. 1-20

    1. 1944, Sept. 21 – Oct. 13

    1. 1944, Oct. 14 – Nov. 5

    1. 1944, Nov. 6 – Dec. 2

    1. 1944, Dec. 3-26

    1. 1944, Dec. 27 – 1945, Jan. 27

    1. 1945, Jan. 28 – Feb. 20

    1. 1945, Feb. 21 – Mar. 15

    1. 1945, Mar. 16 – Apr. 9

    1. 1945, Apr. 10 – May 3

Box 2


    1. 1945, May 4 – June 8

    1. 1945, June 9 – July 10

    1. 1945, July 11 – Aug. 13

    1. 1945, Aug. 14 – Sept. 16

    1. 1945, Sept. 17 – Oct. 3

    1. 1945, Oct. 4 – Nov. 26

Series 2 – Miscellany, 1943-1945

    1. Military records, 1943-1946 and undated

    1. Chengtu News Bulletin, May 5, 1945

    1. Oversize Maps (see OD075)



China — Description and travel

India — Description and travel


Medicine, military



Petri, Leo Henry, 1914-1998

World War, 1939-1945 — China

World War, 1939-1945 — Health aspects

World War, 1939-1945 — India


05-18-2007   Revised TMM/tmm

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